Updated:  8:00 PM, March 21, 2018

Cardinal Tagle addresses a capacity-filled auditorium as Bishops J.Michael Miller (right), archbishop of Vancouver and Bishop Ken Nowakowski of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of New Westminster listens. (Photo: The B.C. Catholic)

Vancouver, B.C.

Filipinos love their cardinal

By Ted Alcuitas

It was a sea of Filipinos in the 2,929-seat auditorium of Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Monday, March 19 as Antonio Luis Cardinal Tagle spoke on ‘Keeping Families in Faith’.

The archbishop of Manila and president of Caritas Internatioanales did not disappoint them.

Proving that he is a ‘shepherd’ that knows his flock, the 61-year-old Cardinal brought the audience to laughter several times in his hour-and-a half talk.

“I’m here to tickle your imagination,” warning his audience that he cannot answer all the questions about how to keep families together.

The church calls the family – ‘the domestic church’ and is the first place where young, baptized Christians learn about their faith.

“It has been said that the young are lost, but is it them or is it the parents that are lost?” he asked as he explored the dilemmas( not problems) faced by families today.

“It is faith that will sustain the family – faith in each other. Husbands and wives believing in each other and together keep family relationships strong.”

“I want to reverse the question: Do we keep faith in the family or do we have faith in the family? ” he challenged his audience.

“Because if marriage is no longer kept sacred and spouses break up at the slightest provocation, then the family is weakened.”

He urges families to tell stories- stories of faith and love.

Like Jesus who used parables, Tagle told a lot of stories in his talk, a skill he used to keep his audience’s attention throughout.

Tying his talk to Pope Francis’ Laudato Si (On the Care of Creation) he deplores the transactional culture – the urge to treat everything as objects, with no values.

Instead, “we should treat them as gifts with values. As such, we don’t discard them – we care for them as stewards,” he says.

He then used an ordinary object- the watch he was wearing to emphasize his point.

“Friends tell me- Father,you are a cardinal now. Change your watch. But this watch is not just an object. This was a gift to me by my parents when I graduated from high school. So I value it. You just don’t throw gifts away.”

The Cardinal met his former student, Fr. Rey Usman  (right), assistant pastor at St. Michael’s Church in Burnaby, B.C. (Photo: Victoria Casas-Alcuaz)

“We are all wounded people and we have to heal each other, touch each other. Jesus asked Thomas to touch his wounds.”
“So we too must touch each other. Wives, touch your wounded husbands. Husbands, touch your wounded wives. Don’t just throw each other away. You are gifts to each other…”

And then he tells the story of his old Jesuit mentor whom he visited in his sick bed. Nurses told him that the old priest always cried when he is visited by friends and students. So when Tagle visited him he tried to rub his arm and console him and he stopped sobbing. “Tagle, you slept in my class.” Which kept him thinking, why did he told him that?

‘Don’t be proud!” That was his message.

In his only mention of divorce, the cardinal reached to his 2014 talk on the Synod on Families where he pointed out the twin problems of poverty and migration.

Filipinos are driven out of the country because of sheer poverty and forced to work in foreign lands, leaving children behind to care for others.

“De facto, there is separation of couples and separation of parents from their children. But not because they could not stand each other, not because there is a breakdown in communication, not because of conflicts. They get separated because they love each other,”

Up to 2.56 million Filipino families have at least a member working overseas. (READ/WATCH: Para kay Mama: A Rappler Documentary)

Speaking to Catholic News Service (CNS) in 2014, Tagle said he wants programs for migrant Filipinos “so that they could remain faithful to their spouses and remain faithful to their families back home.”

He asked: “What type of emotional first aid, if you want to put it that way, do we offer to incoming migrants, most of them confused, lost, lonely?”

The Philippines is the only country in the world without a divorce law.

Last week, the Philippine Congress passed one and it will now go to the Senate for a vote. It is predicted it will face concerted opposition.

Development & Peace (D&P-Caritas Canada)

Tagle spoke at length on his role as president of Caritas Internationales, who’s Canadian counterpart is Development & Peace (D&P).

Caritas is a world-wide confederation of 162 Catholic relief organizations in 198 countries.

He thanked the Vancouver flock for their generous support to D&P project in the Philippines especially during Typhoon Haiyan. D&P, together with other partners is now completing housing for 500 families in Tacloban, Leyte.

D&P members Victoria Casas-Alcuaz (left) and Minda Lambajon (right)of Good Shepherd Parish in White Rock took time to take a selfie with Cora Alcuitas (centre) of St. Mary’s Parish.(Selfie by Victoria Casas-Alcuaz)